Marianna Zapanta of Oakland bakery Mar Z Pan bakes up Danish and Filipino-inspired treats no one else is making.
Her vegan sourdough donuts come in flavors ranging from Filipino buko pandan to Scandinavian lingonberry. She also makes pandesal, a Filipino roll typically eaten for breakfast or snack, in its traditional plain form, as well as stuffed with Nutella or marzipan.
The marzipan pandesal, in many ways, is Zapanta’s signature product. Zapanta’s mother is Danish, and her father is Filipino. As she was formulating the name and concept for her bakery, friends and family suggested using a name with the word “marzipan” in it, since it sounded like a play on her name. So Zapanta decided to stuff pandesal with marzipan. The name and the concept fit, and Mar Z Pan was born. The bakery, a cottage food business, opened in October 2018.
But Zapanta said she didn’t intentionally set out to create one of the few, if not the only Filipino-Danish bakery in existence. Instead, she was driven by her tastes in desserts. “Selfishly, what I wanted to do was put out things I would want to eat myself,” she said. “A lot of the flavors I gravitate towards are flavors of stuff I grew up with.” Many of her recipes are based on ones she got from her paternal Filipino grandmother and her maternal Danish grandfather (or Morfar as she calls him in Danish).
Take, for example, her pandesal. Zapanta based this off her grandma’s “recipe” that she found in a recipe box one Christmas. Zapanta also offers a Nutella version, which has become one of her most popular products. “I feel like it’s something that a lot of Filipino kids, if they had access to, would just want to have all the time,” Zapanta said.
Most of her doughnut flavors lean Filipino, too. Zapanta uses a vegan sourdough base, which she said is easier to digest and compliments the flavor of the sweet glazes. All glazes are made in-house, with flavors like calamansi (Filipino citrus), ube (purple yam), buko pandan (coconut pandan), and — on the more Danish side — lingonberry. Non-vegan ube doughnuts are also available.
Zapanta also offers Danish sandwich cookies. The outsides are classic Danish butter cookies made using her morfar’s recipe. Zapanta stuffs these with tart lingonberry jam, putting her own Danish twist on a traditional Danish dessert.
Macarons might be French in origin, but Zapanta puts her twist on those, too. Filipino-inspired flavors include ube, calamansi, buko pandan, and coconut. There’s also lingonberry.
Additional products include sourdough bread, available in plain and rosemary-garlic varieties, flourless mini chocolate cakes, and custom cakes available in chocolate, vanilla, or Filipino flavors. There’s even a bread club, where customers can sign up for weekly, biweekly, or monthly deliveries of sourdough bread or pandesal.
At first, business spread mostly by word-of-mouth, but now Zapanta said she’s getting lots of business through Yelp. As word about Mar Z Pan has spread, there’s been one unexpected result: Zapanta has had other Filipino-Danish people reach out to her. “Growing up, I didn’t know any Filipino-Danish people other than myself and my sister,” Zapanta said. “It’s such a sort of unique thing … someone you can talk about both of those things with.”
Eventually, Zapanta’s goal is to open a brick-and-mortar bakery, where customers could walk in and buy a single Nutella pandesal on a whim. But for now, customers can order her bread and pastries online at MarZPan.com.